Anchoring in the Bahamas
Tips to safely anchor without disrupting your surroundings
Ahhh…anchored in the Bahamas. Your cruising dream for as long as you can remember. At last, you have crossed the Gulf Stream and arrived aboard your own boat. If this is a dream, don’t wake me up!
After clearing Customs and Immigration, pick up the latest rules and regulations for visiting this island paradise. Take down your yellow quarantine flag, hoist the Bahamian courtesy flag, and start your adventure of a lifetime. Now, let’s find a good anchorage.
Before Leaving the States
Trip planning begins long before you leave the dock and should include a few anchoring options that are weather-dependent. Bring a cruising guide along to show you the better anchoring locations, dinghy docks, and beaches. Many national parks have moorings or specific boundaries to help protect the coral and sea grass. So, find a sheltered cove, but do not anchor outside the sandy areas when selecting your perfect location.
Preparations to cruise also include reviewing the equipment you have aboard. What kind of anchor and rode do you have? Anchors are designed for a specific sea floor bottoms. What works for you in the muddy Gulf of Mexico or rocky sea floor of Maine may not hold well in the sandy hard pan of the Bahamas. A second anchor for backup with sufficient rode is a consideration most cruisers will heed as well before leaving their home port.
Anchor Designs for Good Holding
We recommend either a concave or convex plow anchor for the hard pan, sandy bottoms found throughout the Bahamas. The convex or concave plow design allows the heavier pointed end of the solid shank anchor to dig down into the sand and set. A hinged shank may interfere with the point digging in.
Consider how much rode you have and how deep the waters of the Bahamas are where you plan to anchor. Most anchor locations are about 10 feet, but in strong wind, we let out a lot more rode to keep the anchor from dragging. Many boats have 250-plus feet of rode attached to the primary anchor which will serve you well.
All Sand is Not the Same
If you see a sandy sea bottom, it is likely that limestone hard pan or marl is just a few inches under the loose sand. This hard underlayer may cause your anchor to slide along and not dig into the sea floor. The solid shank plow-style anchor with a weighted point will help dig down beneath the hard layers.
So, select an anchorage, figure your scope, and deploy your anchor while easing in reverse. When the desired rode is deployed, secure it to your boat with the rope rode on a cleat or by using a chain snubber rope to a cleat. Then pull the anchor rode backward to see if the anchor bites into the sea floor. The rode will stretch and the bow will dip a bit.
A bonus of anchoring in the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas is that you get to dive on your anchor to confirm it is set deep into the sea floor. Grab your mask and fins, hop overboard in the clear waters, and ensure the anchor is set.
Bahamian Mooring or Traditional
Some cruisers may talk about a Bahamian mooring, when two anchors are set off the bow at 180 degrees from each other. This still requires proper scope on both anchors but will limit your swing. As many years as we’ve been cruising, the Bahamian mooring method is rarely used unless in a very tight anchorage with many boats.
We prefer the traditional anchor style where the boat will swing freely with the wind and tide. When approaching an anchorage, ask the boaters already at anchor what works for them. The more crowded the anchorage, the tighter your swing must be to fit everyone in. Try to go where it is less crowded for more swing room with a traditional anchoring set up. If you deploy a lot of rode, consider attaching a trip line and buoy with your boat’s name on it so others can see where your anchor is located.
Dreams Do Come True
Safely at anchor, you can bask in the beauty of the Bahamas. Count the fish swimming by and the conchs slowly traversing the sandy bottom. A real treat is to watch the sea floor at night with a full moon or a flashlight to attract sea life.
Enjoy the Bahamas and respect their natural surroundings. Do not allow your anchor to destroy their coral reefs or sea grasses. Share your photos with others still dreaming back home…ahhh.
-by Capt. Chris Caldwell